Tuesday, August 30, 2005


The hurricane news isn’t good from the South, but at least this is a breath of fresh air: Cheri Pierson Yecke has been named chancellor of public education in the State of Florida.

She’s a no-nonsense, back-to-the-basics education leader who got rid of dumbed-down learning standards in the State of Minnesota in a brief stint as education commissioner. But then union pressure got rid of her. Why? Because she was too good at advocating for academics over social engineering.

Well, she has resurfaced in Florida with a great, new job. A brief resume:

Yecke, 50, most recently served as Distinguished Senior Fellow for Education and Social Policy at the Center of the American Experiment. Previously, she was Commissioner of Education for the State of Minnesota. Her prior education service includes Senior Advisor for USA Freedom Corps, The White House, and Director of Teacher Quality and Public School Choice for the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, Yecke served as Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia, a member of the Virginia State Board of Education and a classroom teacher.

A native of Minnesota, Yecke received a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Hawaii, a master's degree in teaching from the University of Wisconsin, and a doctoral degree form in educational psychology from the University of Virginia. Her book, "The War Against Excellence: The Rising Tide of Mediocrity in America's Middle Schools," was released in 2003.


There’s a cool study from the National Governors Association with all kinds of positive information about how school-choice programs are raising student achievement and lowering costs. Take a look-see at
www.nga.org/Files/pdf/EDUCATIONCHOICE.PDF and tell me one more time how come Nebraska isn’t in to this exciting development in K-12 education.


Another exciting development that is unfortunately not yet here in Nebraska is called “value-added assessment.” It’s a system that helps reveal which teachers and which curriculum are increasing individual student achievement, and which ones are not.

According to the New York State School Boards Association (
www.nyssa.org, article: “Value-Added Pilot Project Begins This Fall”), 15 districts in New York are going to try value-added analysis this school year, following the lead of Tennessee, Ohio, Colorado, Iowa and Pennsylvania for this statistically-exciting idea.

Comparing an individual student’s test scores with the same student’s scores the year before, after a year in the charge of a teacher, is a great way to give meaningful feedback to teachers. It helps avoid the tendency to blame the kids’ homes or the moon or whatever, when aggregate, group scores hide the progress or lack of it of individual kids. It can really help with grouping, curriculum selection, and so much more. And it’s a natural foundation for merit-pay bonuses for those teachers whose “value-added” contributions mean the most to kids.

There’s a national value-added conference planned in October in Columbus, Ohio, where among other topics, they’re going to discuss why it’s so darn hard to find teachers who have been trained in the tried-and-true instructional methods that really work. That includes the phonics-only reading instruction that’s so good for kids all along the income spectrum. It’s value-added to the max.

Somebody from Nebraska ought to attend this, because value-added assessment is a proven way to increase achievement and reward good teaching. Learn more on:


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